The paper "Ghosts of Rwanda by Greg Baker" is an outstanding example of a movie review on history. Greg Baker’s (2004) Ghosts of Rwanda is a documentary marking a decade since the senseless murder of over 800,000 Rwandan citizens by their own government in what was a tribally fueled conflict among the Hutu and the Tutsi. The two-hour documentary reveals interviews from key persons and powerbrokers at the time of the genocide, some of whom were in Rwanda when war broke out. The core issue throughout the documentary is the shocking indifference of the world, more so from the United States and the United Nations, in the wake of the nationwide massacres. Different people have since cited varying reasons that caused this failure to intervene from the rest of the world. This article attempts to briefly analyze some of the reasons advanced in this particular documentary.
In 1994, war broke out in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes after the president was murdered when his plane was shot down from the sky. Although there existed strong indications and rumors of war before this decisive and ‘provocative’ event, very little had been done to stem the rising tensions. The UN had just brokered a deal in which the Hutu were to share power with the Tutsi but an informant came in with news that Hutu extremists had planned to derail the agreement. According to the documentary, this intelligence was swept under the carpets instead. Canadian General Romeo Dallaire reckons that the whole world knew things were about to explode, while human rights activist Mrs. Monique remembers that even before the war, reports had started coming in of scattered deaths and bodies, yet very little was done to curb this deterioration (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004). The world kept a safe spectator distance as the war rose to apocalyptic proportions, taking with it close to a million lives in just 100 days. Instead of interventions, embassies were closed and diplomats and aid workers evacuated instead.
It was a strategy by the extremists to first get rid of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda and a plan was hatched and executed to this effect, with the murder of Belgian soldiers thus weakening the already few peacekeepers. After the slaughter of the Belgian troops, peacekeepers (especially Belgian) began to withdraw from Rwanda early in the conflict as the innocent Rwandans were left hopelessly defenseless.
The UN, through Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary-General), has since issued a host of excuses as to why any UN intervention was impossible. Initially, he quips that it was unclear to the UN and the rest of the world what was happening in Rwanda. He says they were unsure whether or not they were being manipulated (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004). This cannot be further from the truth. It had been reported (as even Annan himself later admits) that there was evidence that violence was about to occur. Moreover, the UN is a key player in the power-sharing deal knew in advance all the variables involved in the equation of Rwanda. They failed to act on intelligence they had and ordered their troops not to raid a known arms cache.
Secondly, the UN says it had insufficient soldiers on the ground to combat extremists and therefore feared a violent confrontation would yield results similar to the one recently realized in Mogadishu, Somalia, in which 18 American troops were killed (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004). Again, with all the intelligence previously assembled, the UN and the US ought to have acted long before war broke out and installed enough troops in Rwanda, instead of sitting and maliciously waiting for the impending doom of 800, 000 innocent fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and children. The truth is that even as the war was now clearly getting serious, there were enough US, Belgian and French troops who came in, not to restore order and avoid the killings, but to evacuate foreigners. In some cases, as seen in the interview, the evacuating troops failed to assist the defenseless people who cried out to them for assistance saying they had different orders, evacuation of white people only (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004).
Kofi Annan then gives the third excuse (with his excuses specifically tailored to blend in seamlessly with the times and trending events) as to why no intervention still came even when the world started seeing the need to interfere with the murderous situation. He says, ‘The UN doesn’t have any troops. We borrow them from governments. And I recall we approached about 80 governments trying to get troops and they wouldn’t give them to us’ (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004). Although the extent of the truth in such a statement, if any, is hard to determine, Annan admits that the UN made errors in its approach to the 1994 Rwanda. US President and his top officials saying they had no interests in Rwanda and so could not intervene (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004) was just plain cold and insensitive, especially to the dying thousands. This careless rhetoric casts the global image and brand of the United States as a superpower in the depths of the mud. It is also wrong for the president to say that he was not furnished with the right information concerning Rwanda yet still fail to dismiss his informants.
In the end, the whole world almost unanimously accepts that it did not approach the issue in the best way possible. President Clinton later joins Annan and other top officials and diplomats at the time that could have done something in admitting fault by saying he will always regret the event (Ghosts of Rwanda, 2004) and the US’s inexistent reaction. The world can only hope that we will deal better with such events in the future, should they occur.